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Holiday Jubilee at the Boulder Creative Collective

Hey All,

This weekend I will be returning to my old stomping grounds. The Boulder Creative Collective is hosting the Holiday Jubilee, a holiday market, on Saturday. All sorts of artists will be selling all sorts of things, from paintings and prints to clothing to cocktails.

It’s the perfect time and place to get a little something for someone you love. Here are some of the things I will be bringing with me:

I look forward to seeing you there!

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Working with Clients – Portrait Commissions

I haven’t done a process post in a while, so here goes. This piece is for a client of mine who has commissioned a few paintings over the years. She always sends me high quality photos, which I appreciate. Blurry or low resolution photos always make my job more difficult.

tinas-grandkids-mock-upIn any case, I started with this photo here. I took it into Photoshop for a little pre-treatment. The first order of business was to crop the photo to the size of the final painting, making sure I was pleased with the placement of the boys within the frame. I then blurred out the background so that they really stood out.


Once I completed this mock up and got approval from my client, I sketched in the figures. Next, I went to work on the background. In order to simulate the blur effect in Photoshop, I utilized the wet on wet technique. With a brush loaded with clean water, I soaked the whole background area. Then I got some pigment on the brush and started dropping in color. Because the paper was already wet, the colors began to run into one another, causing them to blend smoothly.

After I was satisfied with the background, I moved to the foreground. You may have noticed this ugly greenish-grey on the boys’ shirts and hat. That is masking fluid, used to preserve the white of the paper. It also allows me to freely paint large areas of color without having to paint around small details. I built up the folds of the shirts to my satisfaction before removing the fluid.

Although white, there are still some shadows in the numbers and logos on their shirts, so I added these with some bluish-grey. I have also done some significant work on the older boy’s face.


When I got close to done, I sent a photo of the painting to my client. She felt that the legs in the background were distracting, so I got rid of them. I darkened the background while I was at it, using the darkness to cut out the younger boy’s hair. I sent a photo to the client again and she pointed out that I had aged the older boy too much with heavy shadowing on his nose and around his mouth.img_20161122_153522

Back in Photoshop, I applied a black and white filter to the original photo. This helped me to examine the shapes more closely and discover where I had gone awry. I changed the nose and adjusted the mouth while I was at it and sent it off to the client. This time she loved it.

This is how I work with all my clients. I take pains to make sure they end up with the painting they want. The process is fastest when the reference is clear. If you would like to commission a portrait for the holidays, place your order by December 13th. If you live outside of Denver, allow time for shipping. Click here to order.




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Tiny Drawings

Hi Guys. I was at a bit of a loss for what to talk to you guys about, so I just started sketching. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Whenever I’m stuck, I just pull out these small 2.5×3.5 in. pieces of scrap paper and start drawing. I have this mirror above my drafting table which I have been using to practice drawing my own facial expressions. This is a new thing for me, so there aren’t many just yet.

As many paintings as I have done over the years, I have actually fallen out of the practice of drawing with structure in mind. When creating a portrait, you can either focus on the light and shade to create the illusion of three dimensionality, or you can focus on the structure. Obviously, you need both to create a realistic rendering, but what I’m saying here has to do with the way the mind sees form while drawing.

I have been focusing on the light, color and shade. That means that I’m good at recreating a specific image. What I am starting to practice again is focusing on the structure. I break each shape down to its basic components so that I understand the underlying structures. This will allow me to draw any face from any angle without needing a specific reference. I have only practiced this off and on since graduating from art school. Consider me in the on again phase now.

I want to take my work from copy to invention. With my Women Behaving Badly series, I have been great about inventing the board shapes as well as the backgrounds, but I could push the envelope much further on the portraits themselves. I’m always working to improve. How are you improving yourselves? I’d love to hear from you.

img_20160923_111338 img_20160926_123655 img_20160921_144440

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I have changed my website again. I know, it seems like things are always moving around over here, but for good reason. I am looking for the best user experience for you guys and the last layout was lacking. Those of you who visited were not getting past the blog post or home page, so that let me know that something wasn’t working. The new homepage has these easy to navigate buttons that take you exactly where you want to go.


I have added an events page, where you can see what’s happening here in the world of Afro Triangle, and I’ve added a shopping cart for my original paintings, something which didn’t exist before.

Please take a look and let me know if there is anything that I can do to make my site a more pleasant place to hang out.

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Jimi is gone

It is official, I no longer have the Jimi Hendrix painting. It sold this week to a good friend of mine. Yay! A big thank you to that lucky guy. I know what you’re thinking… Oh no! I wanted that one! Never fear, you can still have a Jimi Hendrix print in any size you want.

If you have been eyeing any of my paintings over the last couple of years, now is a great time to get one. If you live in the Denver/Boulder area, I’ll hand deliver it myself. If not, I’ll happily mail it out to you. I still have these left, so make some moves!

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New Low Price on Original Paintings

Hey guys. After much soul searching, I have decided to lower the prices of my original paintings.  This goes against the advice of many of the leaders in art business. Ideally, you pick a number and the only direction you are allowed to go is up. Someday this will be true of my work, but for the time being this is the choice I have made.

Every year, I seek to improve my art, so that each new piece I put in front of you is my absolute best in the moment. As such, the price should go up, because I am always delivering better than I delivered before. However, this year I intend to live solely off my artwork. No side gigs, no full time job to supplement my art habit. I realized that last year I had priced myself out of the market, creating pieces that were admired by many but affordable to few. This led to a LOT of compliments and very few sales. I need to turn that around.New Prices

I recognize that to some, the new prices of originals on my website are still a little high, but I do have to account for the hours I put into each piece (anywhere from 6 to 36, depending on size and level of detail), not to mention the cost of my education that got me this far, studio fees and so on. If my work is still out of range, I have fine art prints available.

I have partnered with Fine Art America, an international company that specializes in providing prints on demand for artists like me. Once you choose the design, you have a plethora of papers, canvases and other substrates to print on, as well as frames and mats of all sizes and colors. They even do things like throw pillows, phone cases and duvet covers. They have their base printing prices and I set the markup. Those two numbers combined add up to the price you see when you place your order.

If you have ordered custom portraits from me before, those rates have not changed, so your piece is still as valuable as it was before. There is something special about family portraits and I want to continue to make those available to as many people as I can. So, if you have been on the fence about buying art from me, hopefully my work is now in your range.

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The Holidays Are Coming

Hey all! Many of you are receiving this message because you have been following my work for some time. First of all, I want to thank you for your support over the years, following my progress here and on social media, attending my shows, and occasionally purchasing my art.
With the holidays coming so soon would like to remind you that my drawings and paintings make great gifts. This past year, I have added art prints to my list of offerings, providing an affordable option for those who are hesitant to buy an original painting. Fine Art America, the printing company I use provides high quality reproductions which can be pre framed or pre mounted and delivered to right you or to your loved ones. In addition to wall art, FAA has phone covers, duvet covers throw pillows and greeting cards. They even have a 30 day, money back guarantee so that if for some reason there is a problem with your product, you are protected.
Click here to check out my web store and find yourself the perfect gift.
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How I Do What I Do – Part 1

So, there are going to be a number of these because if you are familiar with my Facebook page and my Instagram profile, you have seen that I post my step by step, work in progress pictures. Sometimes I’ll tell you what’s in my head while I’m working, but often enough, I only post the photo. Here, I’ll give you a little insight into what I’m thinking while I work.

Let’s start with my Ray Charles piece. With this one, I actually started with a black and white image. I wanted to challenge myself to build up color while focusing on value. By value,I mean light and dark.

You can see in the first image, that I don’t have any color information to work with, but that’s alright. I used the other reference images, here, to get what I wanted. I only needed a baseline of his complexion to get me where I was going.

From there, I started to work up the tones. Because I was only looking at the black and white image for much of my painting time (I was in the park and didn’t want to carry too many things) I started by thinking like a screen printer and built up the contrast in the lightest color first, my yellow ocher. You can see in the image below that it’s pretty rough. That’s because I was using a large, flat brush to get my color onto my paper. I was intentionally fast and loose and was only thinking in terms of light and shadow. I did not allow myself to blend at all at this stage.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles Yellow

Next, I added my Cadmium Red Hue and started refining the shape the color was taking on. I wanted to be sure that I blended where I wanted a mid tone, but left some of the yellow and white as highlights. You can see that I am much more careful with my color placement and the painting is starting to feel more like Ray. I’m still working with a pretty large brush, but toward the end, have switched to a smaller one. I LOVE Chinese calligraphy brushes for watercolor painting. I love the way they hold water and pigment and transfer it smoothly to the page, and I especially love how sharp a point I can get with them, allowing me to go quickly from thick to thin lines in a single stroke. I can usually get by with one or two brushes at this stage in the painting.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles Red

After the red layer, where I have built up the majority of the complexion, I add the blue layer. This I use much more sparingly, only really hitting the deeper shadow areas. One thing I should mention is that I don’t only apply blue at this stage. I actually start mixing it with my red and yellow to create varying shades of brown. I also mix in two types of blue, Prussian Blue, which has a more greenish tone, and Cobalt Blue, which leans a little bit toward purple. These two, plus the red and yellow, help me achieve the level of darkness I want in the deeper shadow areas. I try to avoid using black directly, as it flattens my paintings. On the rare occasions I do use it, I have mixed it with Prussian Blue and Cadmium Red.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles with Blue

This next step is where I start building up the skin texture. Mr Charles was an old man by the time the original photo was taken, so I didn’t want to give him baby smooth skin. I went in with the smaller of my calligraphy brushes and started putting in marks that both built up the richness in his complexion, bringing back in deeper reds and yellows, and gave the impression of wrinkles, bumps and uneven skin tone without having to actually paint in those things. I also started defining his hair and figuring out what colors I wanted in his shirt, since I didn’t have a color reference for it.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles, textured

Finally, I tightened up the details, added some white scribbles in his hair with a gel pen, darkened all the darks and threw in some colored splotches and swirls in the background to contrast against his skin. I really wanted to emphasize that highlight on his forehead, so I couldn’t leave the paper white. Taking similar browns from his skin tone and leaving a space for the light to live really makes the piece pop, in my mind, and makes him feel like he’s there in 3D, not just a bunch of strategically placed colored marks.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles, almost done

And here is the final. I had it professionally photographed so that it is ready for reproduction. I am VERY proud of how this piece turned out and it definitely served as a turning point for how I approach a portrait. I hope you have enjoyed the story of my Ray Charles painting. I will be posting more of these in the future. Thank you for taking the time to read this. And if you are interested in a print of this or any of my other pieces, please feel free to contact me. I will soon have them available to order on this site.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles




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More From Afro Triangle Upcycled

I have experienced some success with these jewelry pieces and have been having a great time making them. I must say, it has been an interesting journey coming up with different variations for these bracelets. There’s something about looking at the materials in front of me and seeing the possibilities for each new piece, coming up with different ways to put them together. Anyway, here are the newest creations.

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Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle

Last week I found myself with a little extra time on my hands so I took a trip to the Goodwill Outlet store. I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but you can buy clothes and goods by the pound out there. Pretty cool, right? In any case, I found a bunch of nice dress shirts that I couldn’t resist picking up. I knew I wanted to resell them, but being who I am didn’t want to put them out as they were, so I washed them thoroughly and put my stamp on them (so to speak).

These are the shirts of Afro Triangle Upcycled. I have long wanted to print onto dress shirts, jeans and jackets, but was a little fearful of the startup costs for that venture. Upcycling gives me the opportunity to explore and refine my technique, provide a quality product, and test the market without breaking the bank.

Once I got that started, I couldn’t resist making upcycled jewelry as well. I had some leather belts that were pretty cool, but were a little too broken to buckle so I turned them into these leather cuffs.

It has been a good time exploring the different types of designs I can pull out of leather, rivets and snaps. Check back periodically to see what else comes out.

These new products are all available in my shop at the following links:

Thanks for checking in.

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Afro Triangle – I Am

I have been quite busy the last few months, and unfortunately, have forgotten to post here. My latest project is an addition to my line of apparel.

2014-04-21 19.19.36-1 Afro Triangle 6 Flipped Small Afro Triangle 6 M Flipped Small





The concept behind these designs is to inspire people to own their greatness and to inspire greatness in others. I see this as a happy medium between modesty and bravado. Most of what I call “ego shirts” out there are great at stating that the wearer is someone to be admired for some reason or other, but they come off as unnecessarily cocky.






I wanted to create a shirt that states the positive attributes of the wearer, either the ones they hold dear, or the ones that others see in them, but they fail to see themselves, but I also wanted to provide a humbling element.

The “and so are you” at the bottom serves as a reminder that none of us are just one thing or another, but that we are all made up of these different attributes, positive or otherwise. We have to remember these things about ourselves, but most importantly, we have to remember them about each other as well. Only then can we be able to get past what makes us different and reveal what makes us similar so that we can really communicate. I am amazing, and so are you.